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Sunday, December 2, 2012

One of the many faces of Thainess in Thailand

I have been passing the Xoi Cuc seller a few times a week for a few months now, here in Sakon Nakhon. While passing the other morning Daeng mentioned being hungry, nothing new there, so I said let's try the Xoi Cuc, to which she answered it was bottled water.
Daeng has lived in the area for most of 50 years, and when asked many of the neighborhood Thais told me yes Xoi Cuc is bottled water even people living within sight of the littler shop house.
Now this is the Thainess part of this post and it is Thais rarely need fact to state fact. More often than not guesses, rumors and even out and out lies become fact. Okay Xoi Cuc is an inconsequential little item, but the trait of just exercising the mouth with no bearing with reality, is a Thai reality. Ask directions anywhere in Thailand and more than likely you will get an answer, while the odds of that answer being correct will be slim to none.
It does get worse. There was the Thai woman who told me Luangta Maha Boowa ordained her son, while in fact he was not Upajaia and never ordained anyone. Things not Buddhist become Buddhist in Thailand. The Chinese are causing the Mekong River to flood. There is no flooding in Isaan. The king of Thailand was born in Thailand. Amulets and tattoos make you bullet proof. Buddhist laws have changed and amongst other things monks can carry money and own things now. Thailand is a mono cultural society. If someone  drives a big car that person is wealthy. The list goes on and on, some things seem quite inconsequential, others not.
At the end of the day Thainess can as we see on a regular besis in Thailand's Nearly English Language Dailies can kill people. There is equal justice under the law says Luck Ying, Thai Rak Thai v3.1.
By the way do a Google Search for Vietnamese Food Xoi Cuc, I ate mine.

Saturday, December 1, 2012

The Baci Ceremony, Northeast Thailand had no Business in a Buddhist Monastery

Much of the following taken fromThe Baci Ceremony The Lao Heritage Foundation.
Baci is an animist ritual used to celebrate important events and occasions, like births and marriages and any event of importance in the cycle of life,
Briefly the Baci is a ceremony to celebrate a special event, whether a marriage, a homecoming, a welcome, a birth, or one of the annual festivals. A mother is given a baci after she has recovered form a birth, the sick are given bacis to facilitate a cure, officials are honored by bacis, and novice monks are wished luck with a baci before entering the temple. The Baci ceremony can take place any day of the week and all year long, preferably before noon or before sunset. The term more commonly used is su kwan, which means “calling of the soul.
It is a beautiful ceremony and I was lucky enough to help organize one of the firstmulticultural ceremonies in the Washington D.C.area some 25 years ago. The Baci brought 100s of people. of various faiths and races together.Kwan are components of the soul, but have a more abstract meaning than this. The kwan have been variously described by Westerners as: “vital forces, giving harmony and balance to the body, or part of it”, “the private reality of the body, inherent in the life of men and animals from the moment of their birth,” and simply as “vital breath”.

It is an ancient belief in Laos that the human being is a union of 32 organs and that the kwan watch over and protect each one of them. It is of the utmost consequence that as many kwan as possible are kept together in the body at any one time. Since all kwan is often the attributed cause of an illness, the baci ceremony calls the kwan or souls from wherever they may be roaming, back to the body, secures them in place, and thus re-establishes equilibrium.

The pha kwan is an arrangement consisting of a dish or bowl, often in silver, from the top of which sprouts a cone or horn made of banana leaves and containing flowers, white cotton or silk threads. The flowers used often have evocative meanings and symbols, such as dok huck (symbol of love), dok sampi (longevity), dok daohuang (cheerfulness/brilliance), etc. The cotton threads are cut at the length long enough to wrap around the adult wrists. These are attached to a bamboo stalk and give the impression of a banner.

Around the base of this is the food for the kwan. The food consists usually of hard boiled eggs (symbol of the fetus), fruits and sweets symbolizing the coming together of several parts, in this case the forming of a community (a stalk of bananas, khaotom-boiled sweet rice wrapped in banana leaves), bottle of rice whiskey for purification, and boiled whole chicken with head and feet with claws for divination purposes.

The pha kwan is placed on a white cloth in the center of the room, with the maw pawn sitting facing the pha kwan. The person(s) for whom the baci is being held sits directly opposite of him, on the other side of the pha kwan. The maw pawn or mohkwan is a village elder, ideally an ex-monk who will be officiating the ceremony, chanting and calling the kwan.

But the ceremony has nothing to do with Buddhism, monks do not take part in nor attend Baci ceremonies.
Except of course in Thailand where there is money to be made. In 17 years in Thailand, and in more than a quarter century involved with Buddhism,  Lao and Isaan people in Laos, Thailand, in the villages of Isaan, England and North America and  I have never seen what took place at Wat Phra That Choeng Chum.
Wat Phra That Choeng Chum is home to the Jao Khana Changwat (Head Monk) of Sakon Nakhon. It has hosted film festivals (that certainly were not public service or rated G). Monks with money and dancing girls are not unseen here. So if a wealthy donor wants to hold a baci, why not.
Tis once again is just another proof that Buddhism is a Business in Thailand and has little if nothing to do with the Vinaya nor the Tripitaka (Pali Canon) the basis of Buddhism. Dancing girls, a pigs head and Whiskey, Buddhism Thai style.

Friday, November 30, 2012

Education, What Education in Thailand

It seems there are almost daily reports about the abysmal state of education in Thailand. Here is yet another study that was mentioned in one of Thailand's Nearly English Language Dailies Pearson launches The Learning Curve and if you are actually interested or in any way give a shit you can read the entire report. Now if you read the first link you will see that Thailand scored -1.46, but to prove the level of education in Thailand the Bangkok Post writes Thailand scores badly in education assessment ranking with the following
...Thailand scored badly, with 1.46.. which is a great improvement over the true score of -1.46. But also demonstrating the intelligence of Thai journalists.
Not only are Thailand schools deficient in reading, writing and arithmetic, but have no interest in teaching anything about morals, economic responsibility, health care, sexual hygiene or anything required for a life of moderation, free of economic and social stress.
Bangkok is rapidly becoming a city of young, vibrant, and creative people. There are thriving music and arts scenes emerging, and the youth are collectively changing the status quo, freeing their minds of indocrination that for so long has crippled thailand’s hind legs and sought only to benefit the ruling classes. Is a quote from a recent comment on one of my posts. At first it sounds good and positive until you realize that the people he is talking about are generally uneducated and in debt up to their collective eyeball. People 'spending beyond their means probably misses the many who are in debt to loan sharks . And all of this as usual is exacerbated in the Northeast where an abysmal education is at its worst and debt and disease are rampant.